This article is older, make sure you read this new one about a more recent press campaign.
I just finished a rather long post on book advertising – in it I mentioned a mediocre book promotion blog making a lot of money on book advertisements. I was curious what sort of traffic they get so I used www.alexa.com to find out. Seems like they get most of their traffic from people searching for “press release” keywords, because they have a press release submission service for authors. Which is great for them, because they get paid to send out press releases, get a lot of traffic, then get paid to advertise books, and produce probably very few tangible results to authors.
But it’s really, really bad for indie authors, because:
Press releases for book promotion almost never work
It doesn’t matter how catchy and well-written they are, which is why 99% of press release services book publicity gurus offer are BS.
Even if they help you write it.
Even if you have a big sale or promotion or are giving money away to charity.
EVEN if you have an amazing book.
Why? Because publishing a book isn’t a story.
Blogs, newspapers, TV reporters, they want to share a story that’s interesting, unique, thought-provoking, novel, fun. They want something that makes you go “Oh!” A press release about a book is boring. ANY book.
It goes like this:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date | Location
Today some brilliant author, winner of a bunch of cool awards, published the first and only book – sure to change your life, and the whole world – that accurately portrays the relationship between microbacterial intestinal fauna and psychological health through a charming analogy about a boy and his pet turtle. “Lessons I learned from Pete” is 250,000 words long and illustrated by woodcut etchings from Singapore’s premiere artist, Xian Shir Tan.
The book will be available on Christmas Day 2013 to the delight of children everywhere so make sure you get it under your tree in time! 1/2 of all proceeds will go to support 1 legged drug addict elephants in China, and there will be a 75% off discount to the first 1000 buyers.
For more information and a full press kit, go to theauthorswebsite.com
Even if you make a press release super interesting – it’s still boring.
News stories are things that happen.
You publishing a book is not news. You need to DO SOMETHING that makes you newsworthy.
For example, in 2016 I rented a castle for Nanowrimo and got featured by CNN.
A book by itself is an inanimate object. If readers love it they will share it, so you need to get it in front of them and remove all obstacles to purchasing (like free giveaways).
But you can’t promote it with a press release.
You can promote yourself, or a project/activity you’ve created or are involved in, if it’s interesting. You can promote your book indirectly.
To do this, you need to think bigger, involve more people, make more of an impact, and think about what event you can plan/organize that will be interesting enough to be real news. You need to make something that has meaning, that makes people feel something emotionally, that taps into a movement, an opinion, a crisis.
Yesterday, a group of 500 self-publishing authors banded together in an effort to support 1 legged drug addict elephants in China. These authors have all been able to make a living through writing and are now beginning to put their success to good use. This project is another indicator that self-publishing has become mainstream and is a respectable publishing model. The project is being organized by Author Name, who’s book “Lessons I learned from Pete” has been on the bestseller lists for 15 weeks. For a full list of the 500 authors, click here.
This isn’t the best example, but you get the point. People will share the story, because the story is interesting. You and your book – you’re the footnote, not the main event.
In Trust Me I’m Lying Ryan Holiday talks about Tucker Max’s book (Assholes Finish First, I believe).
They didn’t write a Press Release. Instead they put up a huge billboard and arranged to have a few protesters spray paint over it with feminine power stuff. The story of a guy writing a book about being an asshole isn’t a story. But the story of some women responding to the misogynist, male-centric book with vandalism creates a real story – a viral story, of controversy – which was picked up again and again by huge media and TV broadcasts.
(It doesn’t have to be a real story – it can be a really good idea of a potential story).
Press releases don’t really matter, because they aren’t how the news works anymore. This blog post is just about as likely to get picked up by Google News as your Press Release. If a lot of people share it (they won’t, because it’s a ‘how-to’ and not reportive journalism), then it would become the source for bigger blogs. If it got a ton of shares and likes and comments, eventually the TV news would pick it up.
That’s the way the news works now.
When Press Releases work
If you have a very specific book aimed at a very specific, organized group (“Gardening for Vietnam vets with PTSD”) then a Press Release might get the attention of people who are on the lookout for specific terms, and they may share your news.
Otherwise, you need to create a story around yourself by turning your book into an event (No, not like a book launch party or book signing. Think bigger! How about organizing an Indie Author Association for your city and throwing an extravagant “dress up like your main character” party? That would be news!).
If you can’t think of any news besides “hey I wrote a book!” then you’re better off paying for book advertising than wasting money on a press release.
Sample Press Release Templates
I promised you some PR templates so I’ve been searching for awhile. Unfortunately… I haven’t found anything very good.
Selfpub.info has several examples, none of which I like much, but they may do the trick if you’re determined.
There’s some useful tips about writing a press release on publicityinsider.
There are several good examples on the bottom of this Lulu thread.
Since I know there are a lot of people looking for something of better quality, and since I couldn’t find any myself, of course I’ll make a few of my own soon that will be amazing (as far as Press Releases go – which, as I hope you figure out after reading my article – are not the best way to promote your book.)
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I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
If a press release is not needed, then what would take its’ place in a press kit? For instance, I am working with my Alma mater and we have set up a discussion/Q&A session on campus for anyone who is interested in attending. I have a press release I am working on that will include this information and a little note about my book signing at the bookstore afterwards. Would this not be labeled as a press release?
I think a press release is usually a big announcement about the book launch – but you’re right, if you’re doing a small local event it’s a good idea to let the local press know about it. I would just email a couple local newspapers or reporters who cover local interest stuff (or even look for relevant websites and blogs that cover local news) and let them know. I’d probably call it an information sheet or something, though that’s not a great name either. “Sales Sheet” is like a A4 flier with the book info, summary, sales copy, sales info and a contact – I don’t make those because I don’t have any use for them. When I do print materials I just try to hook readers and get them to download the book on Amazon or signup on my blog. But yes, if you are doing a local signing you want people there (actually… if it were me I would just use Facebook ads: post the event info on my Facebook page and boost it to people who like that genre who live in that city. Much more reach and impact, even for $10 you’d probably reach everyone in that town.)
Thanks Derek. I’m going to a book festival out of town and was wondering how to get some notice. The FB ad is a great idea!
What do you think about writing a press release to send to local news, bookstores and libraries? I have plans to do this to help get my book started in the local area. My thinking is that “Local author releases new novel” is a story in the local area. Your thoughts?
Yes, it’s a story and they might feature it. But what’s the chances of those features connecting with readers who love your genre? It may not hurt, but you should be aiming to connect directly with readers who are looking for books like yours (you want them to buy because they want to read it, not just because someone local wrote it…) Getting into a few local bookshops won’t help sales, you want to be focused on keeping a great amazon ranking and being found when readers are looking for books to read.
Hi Derek, wondering if you have posted your examples of a good press release? If so, where can they Be found? Thanks for all the great advice. I’ve been looking for companies to help market my book on a national level and have found a lot of these companies are charging thousands of dollars
And one of the main things that they are so proud of that they do is send press releases to “over 500” media outlets. I’ve been skeptical as I can’t imagine why NBC, for example, would even read that a new author just published a book! They want
News! Thanks for your post as it confirmed a lot of what I had assumed.